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effects of global warming

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									Global Warming and the Caribbean
Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival 2007: Birds in a Changing Climate
What is Global Warming?                                            and injuries from heat waves, floods,
                                                                   storms, fires and droughts.


E
          very time we drive a car, use electricity from coal-    Plant and animal ranges are shifting, in
          fired power plants, or cool or heat our homes with       response to climate change. Some
          oil or natural gas, we release carbon dioxide (CO2)      birds are migrating and nesting earlier
          and other heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere.         while others have stopped migrating
These gases act like a blanket, trapping heat and warming the      altogether.
Earth’s surface. The more of these gases we release, the
thicker the blanket becomes.                                          Climate change will affect almost
     Since the mid-1800s, our emissions of carbon dioxide        every aspect of human society and the natural world. While
have skyrocketed. There is more CO2 in the atmosphere now        there may be some benefits of warming, for example, longer
than there has been in the last                                  growing seasons in temperate regions, overall, the impacts
650,000 years. The burning of                                    will be negative and severe. Should temperatures rise 3-5°F
fossil fuel alone accounts for                                   or so, 20-30% of plants and animals could become extinct
about 75% of the increase in                                     and coasts and island inhabited by hundreds of millions of
CO2. Deforestation—the                                           people could be flooded. Hardest hit will be the tropics and
cutting and burning of forests                                   subtropics, where many of the world’s poorest people live.
that trap carbon—accounts                                        At the high end of the warming predictions, the world could
for another 20%.                                                 face abrupt, catastrophic and irreversible consequences.
     This heat-trapping
blanket has warmed the Earth
about 1°F during the past                                        Effects of Global Warming in
century. The last two decades
are the warmest on record.                                       the Caribbean
Earth has not experienced                                        Small islands have characteristics that make them especially
such a rapid change in                                           vulnerable to the effects of global warming, sea level rise,
temperature in thousands of years. Unless we reduce the          and extreme events. Our beautiful beaches, coral reefs,
pollution that causes global warming, the world’s top            mangroves, fisheries, bird life, and livelihoods focused on the
scientists predict that temperatures could climb between 2.0°    coast are all threatened by climate change.
to 11.5°F this century.
                                                                Hurricanes and storms are predicted to become more
How Will Global Warming                                          frequent and intense. Together with rising sea level, this
                                                                 will worsen flooding, storm surge, and erosion of beaches,
Affect Us?                                                       threatening vital infrastructure, settlements and facilities
                                                                 that support the livelihood of island communities.
The heat-trapping gases blanketing the Earth are already
causing changes in our climate and ecosystems:                  Marine and coastal ecosystems are at risk. Warming
 Glaciers and Antarctic ice sheets are                                                    ocean waters threaten corals by
                                                                                           causing them to “bleach” as they
  melting, our oceans are warming and snow          The earth’s climate is                 expel the symbiotic algae that
  cover is decreasing worldwide.                       warming. Human                      nourish and give them color. This
 Globally sea level has risen 10-20 cm (4-8
  inches) over the past century, putting               activities such as                  could lead to widespread coral reef
                                                  burning fossil fuels and                 mortality, damaging regional
  coastal areas and millions of people at risk                                             fisheries and tourism. Coastal
  from erosion, flooding during storms, and          clearing forests are                  mangroves and wetlands, which
  permanent submersion of low-lying areas
  and islands.
                                                  causing the warming by                   protect vulnerable coastlines from
                                                      adding more heat-                    storm surge and flooding, are
 Winters are milder, spring is earlier and the                                            threatened by sea level rise.
  frequency and severity of extreme weather      trapping gases, primarily  Caribbean forests will also
  events (storms, droughts) has increased.       carbon dioxide (CO2), to                  suffer from climate change,
 Human health is being affected as some
  diseases that thrive in warmer climates are
                                                       the atmosphere.                     especially hurricane damage and
                                                                                           increased drought.
  spreading, and there are increased deaths                                               Summer drought is expected to
  increase, causing water shortages in many islands.                   Drive less
  Salinization of coastal aquifers will be widespread.                 Walk, bike, carpool or take mass transit more often. You’ll
 Widespread development for tourism has already                       save one pound of CO2 for every mile you don’t drive.
  diminished habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife.
  Global warming could push some of the most                           When it is time for a new car, choose a more fuel-
  endangered species to extinction.                                    efficient vehicle
                                                                       You can save 3,000 pounds of CO2 every year if your new
                                                                       car gets only 3 miles per gallon more than your current one.
What Can YOU Do to Help                                                You can get up to 60 miles per gallon with a hybrid!
Reduce Global Warming?

A
                                                                       Choose energy efficient appliances when making new
         dapting to climate change is essential because we
                                                                       purchases
         are already committed to a certain amount of
                                                                       Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances to choose
         warming from the greenhouse gases that are already
                                                                       the most efficient models. If each household in the U.S.
in the atmosphere. However, we can avoid the worst impacts
                                                                       replaced its existing appliances with the most efficient
of global warming if we act now to slow it. Here are some
                                                                       models available, we’d eliminate 175 million tons of CO2
ways that you can cut your global warming pollution,
                                                                       emissions every year.
become more energy efficient, save money, and give
something back to nature.
                                                                       Encourage your school or
                                                                       business to reduce
Replace a regular incandescent light bulb with a
                                                                       emissions
compact fluorescent light bulb (cfl) CFLs use 60% less
                                                                       You can extend your positive
energy than a regular bulb. This simple switch will save about
                                                                       influence on global warming
300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
                                                                       well beyond your home by
                                                                       actively encouraging others to
Use less air conditioning: move your thermostat up 2°
                                                                       take action. Download
Almost half of the energy we use in our homes goes to
                                                                       toolkits for schools and
cooling and heating. You could save about 2,000 pounds of
                                                                       businesses to take action
CO2 a year with this simple adjustment.
                                                                       outside of your home
                                                                       (www.climatecrisis.net).
Turn off electronic devices you’re not
using
                                                                       Protect mangroves,
Simply turning off your television, DVD
                                                                       wetlands and forests
player, stereo, and computer when you’re
                                                                       Forests and wetlands play a critical role in global warming:
not using them will save you thousands of
                                                                       they store carbon. Thus, conservation of these threatened
pounds of CO2 a year.
                                                                       habitats will reduce atmospheric CO2 as well as protect our
                                                                       birds and other species.
Reduce, reuse and recycle at home and at work
You can save 2,400 pounds of CO2 a year by recycling half
of the waste your household generates
                                                                             The capacity of many species and ecosystems
Plant a tree                                                                  to adapt is expected to be exceeded in this
A single tree will absorb one ton of CO2 over its lifetime.                  century as global warming and its associated
Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air                                disturbances (including floods, drought,
conditioning bill by 10 to 15%.                                                wildfire, insects, and ocean acidification)
                                                                            increase interactions with other stresses, such
Check your tires weekly to make sure they’re properly                           as pollution and resource exploitation.
inflated
Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve gas mileage                   Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 2007.
by more than 3%. Every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20                       Working Group II Report: Impacts, Adaptation and
pounds of CO2 out of the atmosphere.                                               Vulnerability - Summary for Policymakers



                                   Prepared by L. Sorenson, Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB). Visit our
                                   website and the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival webpages at www.scscb.org. Sources for this information
                                   sheet: IPCC 2007: Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability—Summary for Policymakers;
                                   www.ucsusa.org; www.nwf.org/globalwarming, www.environmentaldefense.org, www.birdday.org, www.
                                   climatecrisis.net

								
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